Studying abroad is as exciting and exciting as it sounds; it comes with many baggage and responsibilities. The proper planning and execution during your study abroad will prepare you for the best and the worst part of your lives. Coming from a conservative family based in India to me study abroad was life-changing.
For an international student, study abroad is not just about studying. During the process, you will learn time management, problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration, adaptability, and self-awareness.
There are six critical parts to your study abroad experience.
- Adapting to the Culture and the Weather
- Understanding the teaching process and the assessment methods
- Building your studying technique
- Internships and Part-time jobs
- Applying for full-time jobs
- Self Care
<Not listed in the order of its priority>
1. Adapting to the Culture and the Weather
The United Kingdom's culture is very different when compared to the other Asian countries. Coming from India, the significant difference I saw was, people treat you as an adult with equal respect to everyone. But back home, there is a lot of unnecessary hierarchy. In the UK, people are very formal, and they put themselves first even if they belong to a family. Personally, this was an eye-opener for me because in the 22 years I was in India, I have never put myself first.
The cultural differences will sometimes be a huge shocker. But you will have to be considerate about everyone's background while working on a group project. You can be yourself, but you will be a better team player if you try to be thoughtful about others.
Adapting to the weather was the craziest part of my Master's experience. Till date, I have not come to terms with the UK weather. At Lancaster, it rains ALL THE TIME. Sometimes it's 12° C, and it's super hot, and some days it's 14°C, and it's freezing cold. Depending on the place where you live, the weather is different. I am from the Southern part of India, where the minimum weather I experienced was 30° C. It was definitely a huge difference for me. I still get very sick during the winter months. It is always best to check with your Doctor and get essential vitamin supplements.
2. Understanding the teaching process and the assessment methods
Lecturers in the United Kingdom are very welcoming, and they are always there to help you. If you have any questions outside of lecture hours, you can schedule an appointment with them and have them answered, or you can email them all of your questions. Depending on the course structure, the teaching and the assessment methods will be different. But, generally, during your lectures, you will have case studies discussion and team activities.
As per UKVI, an international student is expected to attend all lectures and have high engagement during the course. In situations of non - absence, you will have to inform the program team with relevant reasons. In case of a medical reason, you will be asked to submit a doctor certificate. If your attendance or your engagement is meagre, the UKVI can withdraw your sponsorship anytime.
The assessment types can vary between MCQ, MCQ with negative marking, short answers, essay exams, group projects, individual coursework (assignments). Depending on the course and the subject, the weightage and the duration of the course will differ.
MSc Management at Lancaster University was a block taught structure program scheduled for 9am to 5pm every day. We studied one module at a time, and the module changed every week or sometimes every fortnight. We had marked coursework, case studies, group activities for all the modules. Additionally, every month, we had exams for the modules that we studied that particular month.
In the UK, the results are classified into four categories → Distinction, Merit, Pass or Fail.
Distinction - Above 70 %
Merit → 60 - 69%
Pass → 50 - 59%
Borderline Pass or Fail → 40 - 49%
There will be a situation where you might score 40 - 49%. In such cases, you will have the option to rewrite the exam, but the score will be capped at 50%. Even if you score above 50%, your score will be capped at 50%. The option is to condone the exam, where you will retain the same mark. In one of the various subjects during my Masters, I scored 49%, and I was asked to choose if I want to rewrite the paper. I decided not to, because
a. I can only increase only 1%
b. This score didn't affect that much on my overall score.
c. I had other module exams, group assignments during the re-exam schedule.
I prioritised the other exams, which had better weightage than the re-test.
When you are put into these type of situations, analyse what's best for you.
3. Building your studying technique
Before beginning any of the modules, you will be given a presentation slide and a list of resources. It is expected of you to study outside the prescribed text to score more than 70%. You will have to read articles, journals, quote statistics, read different books to understand and prepare for exams.
This was night and day from the way I used to study. During my law school, we had one textbook to study end to end and attend the exams. It was really different for me, and it was difficult to establish a research approach that would work for my Masters. To finally get my own studying technique, it took a month minimum. This is what I followed.
→ Before each module, I read the module handbook
→ Borrowed textbooks from the library
→ Read a brief overview of the topic a day before the lecture
→ Downloaded all the PPT's of that particular class
→ Prepared a notes skeleton on Notion (I just listed the headings and subheadings)
→ During class, I took screenshots and added notes to the same Notion document.
→ Jotted down additional research questions
→ Read the textbooks to get a bit more clarity and added all the notes to the same notion document.
→ Used University online resources to find supporting statistics and journals
4. Internships and Part-time jobs
Co-curricular activities like internships and part-time jobs will stimulate your creative thought process and improve problem-solving, critical thinking, time management, communication and collaboration skills. It also provides you with hands-on industry experience. For those who do not have any work experience before their masters, co-curricular activities will look good on your CV.
During my one year Masters, along with my 9 - 5 classes and exams, I did the following activities.
→ I was one of the Digital Content Creators of Lancaster University, Student Union.
→ I represented Lancaster University Management School (LUMS) as a Student Ambassador.
→ Completed a 6 months Digital Marketing Internship at Alan Dick Engineering Ltd, UK
→ Completed a 6 months Marketing and Business Development (remote) Internship at Doodlemonk, India
→ Worked on a 4-week Business Consultancy Project for Two Stories, UK
Though I did not have any full-time work experience with the above activities, I did have transferrable skills to showcase my CV.
The part-time jobs and internships will help you cover some of your living expenses as well. Note: As an international student, you can only work for 20hrs a week.
5. Applying for full-time jobs
Applying for full-time jobs was my full-time job during my Masters. For an international student, it is not that easy to get a job in the UK. There are two imperative things to understand while applying for a full-time job.
1. Understanding your options.
For an international student, if you are keen on getting a job in the UK, it will be much better to have your options open. Specifically, if you do not have any work experience, getting the first job is very important, and practically it is complicated but not unattainable. Many graduates apply for the wrong type of roles that don't fit one's skill set. So, understand what you want to do, but I suggest you don't niche your role.
For example, if you want a full-time role as a Facebook Ads Specialist, apply for Digital Marketing Executive roles too. You can get some industry experience and reaffirm your interests, and shift positions accordingly.
2. Understanding the UK recruitment process.
International students will need a Tier 2 visa sponsorship from a certified Tier 2 sponsor.
The following are the most common stages for Tier 2 positions:
- Application Stage → You will submit an application form, CV and Cover letter.
- Psychometric Tests → You will have to complete tests for verbal, logical, numerical, situational judgement etc.
- Telephone interview
- Assessment centre → Group discussions, presentations and tests
- Face to face interview
Graduate recruitment begins in October. For an international student, it's been precisely one month since they arrived in the United Kingdom. You will be competing with other graduates throughout the United Kingdom.
As an international student, the most satisfying and rewarding part of your study abroad would be building life skills. Studying is definitely not just the most enormous task, but YOU WILL BE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOURSELF. Starting from the time you wake up to the entire day, you are responsible for your actions. Personally, when I eat well and have a neat space, I will be the most productive person ever. Have you come across this in your life as well?
If you are not happy from within, you will not be able to focus on your work. Studying in the UK demands a lot of hard and smart work during your course of study. Among all the chaos, it is very natural for us to forget about ourselves. But, it is indispensable to care for oneself.
When I was back home in India, I just move my ass for any chores. But every day, I travelled for different classes such as dancing, music and yoga, but I just didn't want to do other tasks. I was good at multi-tasking, but I had no clue about cooking or cleaning. When I moved to the UK, I started cooking, managing the house and at the same time, attended 9 - 5 classes, completed numerous assignments, exams, internships and 2 part-time jobs. Ufff.... My parents were super proud.
Compared to the last 22 years, the one year of study abroad experience brought exponential growth in me.
Soft skills that you develop during study abroad:
Study abroad is the best time where you will identify your strengths and weaknesses. This experience will mould you for your better future. It is very natural for us to get scared but remember that "THIS IS A PROCESS".
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